Progress, Focus and Stuff.

It’s been a bit since last I posted, but that’s a good thing…I’ve actually been studying!

Since last time we met, I’ve picked a subject to stick to, Servicenow. This plays directly into my day to day duties. I spend a solid hour to hour and a half reading and taking notes each night, which works well for me. The act of hand writing key points has always been vital to me for making things stick.  In addition, I’ve narrowed the very broad topic of Servicenow into serviceable chunks to align with my duties as our departments de facto developer for the product, as well as additional areas to help pass the Certified System Administrator exam and topics for future projects that our area has in mind. I guess it’s true what they say, having a plan to help narrow your scope into a more manageable size does help a lot.

As I’ve finally broken the ice and taken that initial dive into formally learning a subject, it’s helped quell a lot of the excited murmuring that was going on in my head allowing me to focus and concentrate.  This has proven to be actually working in that I’m starting to see my new found knowledge rise to the surface while working on incremental projects during the day, which helps to build self esteem and prove that this whole crazy process is actually working.  While I do still get the excited trains of thought on wanting to learn everything, all at once, I’ve at least kept those thoughts cornered to one subject area. As I begin to understand certain aspects of the system, I start to get big ideas on things I could build within the system to benefit the department, as well as the company. Which is nice.   Butt, I have to keep myself on track as there currently is no bandwidth to add on new projects and ideas.  There’s a lot of projects to be dealt with that are already starting to move. That’s not to say I can’t write these big ideas down and continue to tinker with them as exercises in the study material though.

In addition to the bandwidth problem, I believe I’ve picked a well focused line to pursue on my personal study track.

For starters, I went through the two part Servicenow Basics, which was good for fine tuning the knowledge I’ve gathered on my own.  While I’ve now got a good four to five months of experience in the system, and a class that was a bit more advanced that I was prepared for at the time under my belt, I still found myself fuzzy on a lot of terminology within the system.  This helped a lot with the working knowledge I had and helped focus my energy into concentrating on ways to make the current system better.

Currently, I’m taking a deep dive on the Service Catalog portion of the platform, which ties directly into the product that we are now using in Production.  This serves two purposes; getting to know our current system better as well as learning new ways to streamline the system and support issues that arise.  This has been a boon, as it has shown the most direct benefits to my work environment.  I have the added bonus of this material sticking rather well in the old noggin, as I have a pre-built system, and a dev environment to poke around in and compare notes on what I see every day, and what the book is telling me. This all boosts my confidence in the system and my skills and helps to make me more efficient, both of which are essential.

After that, I have around five solid topics within Servicenow to follow up with, all areas that will tie directly into my current workload as well as future projects.  To pair with this, I’ve set the goal of passing the Servicenow Certified System Administrator exam, sometime before I head off to Knowledge 17 in May, where I’ll be able to drown myself in all things Servicenow and development!  The idea is to have a solid working base of skills and understanding to enable me to maximize the learning I plan on doing there.

As the great Jimmy James once said, “Jimmy has fancy plans, and pants to match.”

In the end, I hope to follow all of this up with the Certified Developer Certification upon my return, just to have that nice fuzzy little feather in my cap as I set off on this new journey of mine. Self esteem has long been a challenge, so some reachable goals a lot the way will do wonders as I move forward.





How do YOU study for certification tests?


Don’t get me wrong.  I was a decent student.  I got by with average grades, got into college, all was well.  However, ask my mother and she’ll confirm; I did not have any study skills! Where she said she always had to study for hours to get good passing grades, it was always a bit frustrating that I was the type that skated by, never having to study much to do well enough.

As a wise old forty-three year old, I realize that the point of her telling me about her struggles and my contentment with being passable was a lesson in “what could your grades be if you actually tried”.  They probably would have been pretty great!  But back then, I was hellbent on going to school for Music, and I applied myself to that.  It showed to. I was good at it! But, being a musician didn’t necessarily help with my study skills.  Except for now, when It dawns on me that I could have worked at hard at studying as I did with practicing my Tuba and well….

That was then, this is now!

Here in the modern era, I’m not much of a certification guy.  I earned my jobs early on with a hard work ethic and a good knowledge base, plus I learned quite well on the job. I just never really saw the point in dumping a lot of time and money into certifications. If I was happy with my lot in career-life, and the company wasn’t going to give me more money for it, why bother!  Which is probably part of the reason I spent seventeen years in the same humdrum position. It’s definitely the reason that here twenty five years after I graduated high school, I still don’t really know how to study effectively.

These days, my view on certifications and learning have changed greatly, as I detailed in the last post that went up.  I’m really excited in this new position and I’m really excited to learn everything I can for the position.  It happens to turn out that with this new job, I also do not feel content to settle. I want to excel at it.  I want to grow at it.  I want to become the center of knowledge, and maybe excellence, of both my team and my department. These are goals that are definitely reachable here in the next few years, but; I really don’t know the best way to study.

My starting tactic since my move to the world of Security Engineering has been to read everything I can, cover to cover.  This does work.  But it’s a lot of data to absorb and after reading some of John Sonmez’s “10 Tips to Learning”, I fear I may be overloading myself with a lot of minutia that I really don’t need to know.  The practical side of me thinks different though. Years of working on the front lines of tech support have taught me that sometimes when things go awry, it’s that very minutia that is going to trip you up.  Plus, when studying for technical certifications, I can never stop worrying about the fact that they’re definitely going to ask you about some tiny jumper setting that was buried in page 537 of the Administrators Guide, just to make sure you’re paying attention. Really, I can’t stop worrying that I’m studying right material.

It’s safe to say, my best option moving forward may be to just get out of my own head and studying however I feel like it, and stop worrying about the details.  Which is probably a great idea.  I’m glad that I, the notorious non-study guy, came up with it.

For now, I lean on the tried and true skills that I used to enlist when I did bother back in my high school days.  Read the chapter. Take the notes. Press ahead. Review the notes. Move on. I’m a big pen and paper notebook kind of guy.  I feel very strongly that the tactile practice of writing things down by hand helps to cement that data to my memory.  It’s my very own write-to-disk function. I’ve even started opening up to the idea of writing down my questions in an effort to clarify what exactly I don’t understand, which some times helps me actually understand. You may have noticed above in this very post, just by writing it out, I’ve started making connections of my own to help me look at things in a new light!

So now, as I slowly start to untangle this web of uncertainty from my own brain, I pose this question to you fellow career techies out there:  How do you study for tests, new tools and industry standards?  What method works best for you to shake off those fears and 2nd guesses that start to creep in when your mind starts to inevitably question if what you’re doing is actually the correct thing to be doing? 

I’m telling you friends, as somebody who left college in ’96, the idea of taking tests again is pretty damn daunting!